I’ll be at GenCon this year, which means all of Gaming Ballistic, LLC will be in attendance. That second one sounds much more impressive.

My fate was sealed when I pledged to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG Kickstarter, and opted into the Saturday 1-5pm session with Sean Punch. Doubly sealed when I decided I’d try and go there under the auspices of the Indie Game Design Network, as both an exhibitor and table fiend.

But . . . that meant I could take the time to do a bit of hands-on demonstration, too.

Grappling Smackdown

From 10am to noon on both Friday and Saturday, I’ll be running a two-hour one-shot session designed to show off how Dungeon Grappling plays at the table.

Right now, each game will be using Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition rules. It isn’t PvP – it will be a normal romp through a limited dungeon, but designed to highlight the grappling rules as modified by Dungeon Grappling.

What does that mean?

It means that a gaggle of kobolds might score enough control points to worry a high level fighter. It means a web spell does control damage. And it means that a Barbarian or Monk got real interesting when optimized around the wrestling skills.

Grappling is Combat

Grappling never really gets the credit it should, because folks usually insist on invoking complicated or non-optimal subsystems to resolve it. Dungeon Grappling is both new and old, in a way that will become instantly apparent when you play.

Come find out what a smooth grappling system can do for a game. Sign up as follows:

Friday 10am to noon

Saturday 10am to noon

Even when GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling was published, there were ways to simplify it, and some of those were included in Pyramid #3/61: The Way of the Warrior. The basic premise is, of course, both sound and fun: why treat grappling that differently than other melee attacks, especially in systems (such as D&D) where the level of abstraction is very high already.

On the SJG Forums, a poster threw down a few simplified rules that also tried to bridge the distance between the fairly bland basic grappling rules of GURPS (all successful grapple attacks are a -4 to DX) and the full-on glory (ahem) of Technical Grappling.

They’re pretty cool, and I’ll quote them here (plus a follow-up) before I talk about some other things you can do to tame the system, some of which have matured and already been incorporated into Dungeon Grappling.

Gratuitous plug: both Dungeon Grappling and GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling are available in PDF format at W23, Steve Jackson Games’ web store. There’s no print version of Technical Grappling, but hardcopy versions of Dungeon Grappling are available at my own web store, DriveThruRPG, and CreateSpace.

Continue reading “Less-Technical Grappling (GURPS)”

There have been a few posts recently on the SJG Forums that have brought up Technical Grappling. While my old Blogger site had a nifty index page for all my grappling posts and their titles, called The Grappling Mat, this one doesn’t. At least not yet.

But I did want to lay down the various things I’ve written that might be helpful, so without further ado: Continue reading “Grappling Index for GURPS”

Forum poster Icelander wanted to create a special martial arts style for actually being trained to arrest and detain folks. It’s based on how they do it in Iceland, I think, and is derived from the Passive Restraint style found in the Technical Grappling book. I asked for permission to repost it here on the blog, which he granted. For more discussion, go here.

Arrest Techniques

6 points

This represents the training police officers or other law enforcement personnel receive in arrest techniques, control tactics and the use of force continuum, excluding tactical shooting and the handling of firearms, which will usually be considered its own style. Teamwork is a vital part of this style and the Perk can be chosen as soon as the style has been learned, even if the character does not have 10 points in its skills.

This write-up is skewed toward the arrest techniques taught by the Icelandic police, as that is what I had the best access to, but will describe many typical British, Danish, German, Norwegian and USA training programs as well. Staff as an Optional skill is rare in Europe and the US, but more common in Asia, where the lathi stick and other long staves are common law enforcement tools. Shield is a primary skill for riot police and their batons are often long enough to use Broadsword skill.

Gunnar, my friend who is a serving police officer, member of a riot team and a certified arrest technique instructor, has visited and/or hosted police visitors who have from the above-mentioned countries, observing their training, trained with them and exchanged tips and tactics, in addition to some twelve years of experience here in Iceland.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t trained with anyone who graduated from Quantico, FLETC or other federal training facility, so I can’t be certain this fits for federal law enforcement agents in the US. His last experience with US police was with the Miami-Dade Police Department and this style would fit well enough for them. From what I’ve heard from other cops here who have gone on patrol or trained with US police, it also seems to work for several other Florida deparments, the NYPD and others.

In general, courses in proprietory systems like the SPEAR Fighting System, CQD or others do not mean that the graduate needs to take another Style Familiarity Perk, as most such courses are not long enough for that. SPEAR Fighting System, popular in the UK and allegedly having been taught at the FLETC and Quantico at some point in the 2000s and 2010s, is basically just adding a point in Brawling and maybe Judo, which are already Optional skills precisely because of a tendency to teach these skills in some training programs. The first point in an unarmed skill, particularly Brawling, doesn’t actually require much time to gain, so it’s fairly realistic that a good instructor can teach it in a course that takes less than a week. It’s gaining higher levels of skill that takes a lot of time.

Skills: Diplomacy; Intimidation; Liquid Projector (Sprayer); Shortsword; Wrestling.

Techniques: Arm Lock (Shortsword or Wrestling); Armed Grapple (Shortsword); Change Position (Wrestling); Close Combat (Shortsword); Disarming; Force Posture Change (Wrestling); Handcuffing (Wrestling); Low Fighting; Pass Limb (Wrestling); Retain Weapon (Shortsword); Sweep (Wrestling); Targeted Attack (Liquid Projector (Sprayer) Jet/Face); Targeted Attack (Shortsword Swing/Arm); Targeted Attack (Shortsword Swing/Leg).

Perks: Grip Mastery (Baton); Licence; Off-Hand Weapon Training (Liquid Projector (Sprayer)); Passive Restraint Certification; Teamwork (Arrest Techniques); Technique Mastery (Change Position; Force Posture Change; Handcuffing; Pass Limb).

Optional Traits

Advantages: Combat Reflexes; Legal Enforcement Powers; Police Rank.

Disadvantages: Code of Honour (Police); Sense of Duty (Blue Line).

Skills: Body Language; Brawling; Broadsword; Fast-Draw (Sword); Holdout; Judo; Law (Police); Observation; Professional Skill (Law Enforcement); Search; Shield; Staff; Streetwise; Sumo Wrestling.

Techniques: Break Free (Wrestling); Choke Hold (Shortsword or Wrestling); Elbow Strike (Brawling); Escaping Parry (Wrestling).

Perks: Quick-Swap (Baton); Off-Hand Weapon Training (Shortsword); Shoves and Tackles (Shield or Staff); Style Adaptation (BJJ; Glíma (Belt/Jacket Wrestling)* or MMA); Sure-Footed (Any appropriate for typical duty environment).

*Replace with any culturally relevant style for other countries.

As reviews happen regarding my products, I have tried to keep up, and post links Thus far, Dungeon Grappling has been very well received critically. This might be because those that bother to review it are already part of its target audience – confirmation bias. The other side, that everyone knows grappling sucks, grappling rules suck harder, so why bother, is confirmation bias of a different sort.

I will still maintain my contention that grappling needs to be part of any game that features combat, though much like I mention in my Violent Resolution column To the Last, I Grapple with Thee, those rules need not be custom. Night’s Black Agents has its combat rules at such a level of granularity that it would be odd to treat grappling any differently than melee, and that logic is stated right in the book, explicitly. In fact, the less the grappling rules deviate from the regular combat rules, the better they are as an option that can be integrated easily with the normal flow at the table.

Shane was gracious enough to invite me on his program – my first “big” podcast on Dungeon Grappling, undertaken when the Kickstarter was still going, and when I wasn’t used to podcasts, and also before I got comfortable just getting out there with my message: grappling is awesome in real life, deserves to be awesome in games, and adopting a rules set that makes it that way will increase the potential energy of fun available for games.

In addition to having me on Shane Plays, he also independently reviewed the play of the game. And by that, I mean he actually played out some combats using the grappling rules and reported on how it worked for the game. This is great, not just because of the investment, but also because theorycraft is great, but some rules that you’d think are cumbersome by reading them just aren’t, and some that seem great on paper just suck. You can’t always tell until the dice hit the table. (Of course, sometimes you can.)

So to the end first: I think is review is both favorable and accurate. But I also think it presents a take on things that invite comment, so I’m going to indulge in a bit of quote-response.

First, head on over to Shane Plays and read the full review. I’ll wait, but I’m also going to quote selectively, so there may be missing context, and there will be definitely be missing text. His words are in quote-boxes, and mine follow.

Continue reading “Shane Plays Review of Dungeon Grappling – Comments”

When All You Have is an Arm Lock . . . 

From the (backers only) Kickstarter comments came a note that bears, um, noting:

Hey Douglas — what would you recommend when grappling a creature that has a paralyzing attack? Classic example is probably a Ghoul. I would think only a suicidal player would attempt to grapple something like that as it seems like an automatic hit and save required every round. Any thoughts on that?

I think he’s hit the nail on the head there in his own question.

There’s a song by Jim Croce “You don’t mess around with Jim,” where the advice is

“You don’t tug on superman’s cape;

You don’t spit into the wind

You don’t pull the mask off that old lone ranger;

And you don’t mess around with Jim.”

I think wrestling a ghoul falls into that category!

More seriously, just as hitting something with an axe isn’t always the best answer to every provocation, just because there are (hopefully!) good rules for grappling doesn’t mean you should play to a monster’s strengths.

If you MUST grapple a ghoul, use a ROPE (a lariat, for example, or a whip if your GM lets you make a grappling attack with one). Or a web spell.

Or bash it to death with a pollaxe, because sometimes that is the right answer.

In closing: grappling is another, and obviously I would add crucial, axis of conflict that GMs and players can bring to the fight. You can go for immobilization or you can go for pain or you can go for strangulation or crippling injury. But it’s not always the best answer, and figuring that out can be part of the challenge. There are Norse monsters like draugr that can only be overcome by first grappling it back into its grave.

And then there are paralyzing ghouls one would be unwise to touch. Continue reading “Grappling is the only answer!”

It’s like a moth to flame with me. First there was GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling. That one  was my first full-length book for anyone: 35,000 words of fairly detailed subsystem that was my first attempt at taking grappling rules and put them on the same scale and mechanical basis as striking with fists or weapons. It’s where I created and put to paper the concept that one should treat wrestling with the same level of abstraction and the same mechanics as other methods of fighting.

Then I got involved a bit in a Swords and Wizardry game. This deliberate throwback to the original Dungeons and Dragons rules took me back to the red box and AD&D days, and had the same brutal and elegant simplicity that I recalled, but also was found more rarely in later games. An entire party of folks could sit down, roll up characters, and begin play in less than an hour. Maybe less than 15 minutes. West End Games’ Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game has that same feel. Few others since have managed it (Fate Core and Accelerated do a very nice job as well. They should: Leonard Balsera quoted WEG’s Star Wars as one of his primary influences when designing the game).

So when my S&W group and I got a few games under our belts, Peter Dell’Orto encouraged me to take Technical Grappling and strip it way, way down and apply it to S&W, and by extension to all of the games based on the old-school D&D rules. We took that on together, and the results appeared in Tim Shorts’ zine, part of Manor #8. Peter and I took everything that wasn’t strictly required and threw it in the dustbin. Doubly so because the old games’ monster writeups mostly did not include much in the way of statistics. You would get Hit Dice, Armor Class, and Hit Points. That was about it. Size? Strength? Yeah. Make it up. Continue reading “Dungeon Grappling – Designer’s Notes”

This weekend was, in a word, good.

Dungeon Grappling

 
I did a triple-whammy. I finished a draft late Friday night that I thought – despite being bleary-eyed – was quite good. My readers confirmed it was the best version yet.
But the next day, one of my readers ran through a PFRPG fight with some purpose built grapple-monsters, both PCs and critters.
Whoa. Not good. The problem is that the source material – OSR D&D in various flavors – is fairly low in the HP department, and Dragon Heresy uses other stats to differentiate wounds from vigor, and control from vigor.
So converting over using HP to get to PFRPG or Fifth Edition? No. Does not work.
I real-timed it with Cole, and realized that at least for the moment, a new value for the grappling version of HP was needed. Came up with one, and that tested well. I knew it wasn’t quite right, and kept working while the playtest was going on. Found a good solution for all of the games treated, and realized (via math, backed up by 8 months of playtests) why Dragon Heresy not once had this problem.
Anyway, rewrote the drafts and got that into the hands of my layout and indexing guys. Wound up at 17,100 words, which (if we use the same layout template as Dragon Heresy) will turn into about 32 pages, which is right where I want to end up. That probably means about 16 – 20 pieces of art. We’ll see – it’s why I like to do a preliminary layout pass – to see where things need to go.
But once the fix was done, the feedback was:

Continue reading “Writing and Art for GB products”

A quick Dragon Heresy update.

Things are moving along, and monsters are being written. I’m super-excited about my lizardfolk writeup, and the elementals and giants are pretty fun too. Actually, the undead are kinda awesome. Anyway, having a specific setting to tie monsters into is a great creative aid.

In other news, I got some feedback on the magnitude of the project which has . . . given me pause isn’t exactly right, but it’s not wrong either. “Hey, here’s a new company, doing a SRD5.1 project that is probably 700-750 pages in two volumes” is a big ask.

So I’m going to try something different. I’m going to rip out the grappling rules from the Dragon Heresy manuscript, plus +Peter V. Dell’Orto and my “Grappling Old School” rules from Manor #8 (which also appeared in Guardians, an OSR Superhero game), and polish them up for a very small Kickstarter. 

I have many, many more words written about grappling than I can use. I have months of playtest of the system, plus all the GURPS stuff where folks have played Technical Grappling. 

I’ll get to trial my layout, give my artists (one under contract, three pending) some early paying work, my indexer and I will figure out a process there, and I’ll get to run myself through the Kickstarter process from start to finish.

Total ask? Likely less than $1,000 . . . maybe much less. 

I’m reaching out to some other authors about some add-ons for extras (all will be PDFs – this is designed to be an “instant gratification” Kickstarter unless it smashes stretch goals for “MOAR ART! COLOR ART! COOL COVER!” or whatnot, in which case you get the B/W version RTFN, and a color version when it’s done.

I will also have a “so . . . you want to help fund Dragon Heresy” set of . . . call them “elite tiers.” I’ve got ideas for this that have to do with having your face and image appear as major historical characters in the art in the DH books. Still cooking on that idea, but I’d commission art to mutually satisfactory specs (real or idealized version of you? What class? pose? that sort of thing) that fit within the scope of art direction for the book. You’d get (minimum) a signed copy of the piece. At best, it reduces what I need to fund for the DH book, as all the art can be re-used.

Anyway, I anticipate having the manuscript done by this weekend or middle of next week. Prelim layout using the DH format (simplified, I think) and density the following weekend. Then I’ll reach out to my artists and we get to see how well we all work together. 

I’m excited about this. It’s a much lower risk project than The Big One, and if successful, the OSR and SRD5.1 crowd will finally have grappling rules that don’t suck. :-)